Musings in Autumn: Katarina Bivald
Canadian Art – Part I: Frederick Hagan
In the words of one writer, “Frederick Hagan’s (1918-2003) unique work has for decades responded to and shaped Canadian painting. Born in Toronto and raised in Cabbagetown, Hagan looked to his lived environments as sources for his artistic subjects: the bustling urban life of a growing city, memories of family and childhood experiences, and the idyllic scenery of the Muskoka region, to which he traveled regularly.
Hagan was quickly recognized for his talent, and by age 21 was exhibiting with the Royal Canadian Academy, while taking classes at the Ontario College of Art under the direction of John Alfsen and Frank Carmichael. Soon, he would take on the role of educator himself, a vocation which would come to define Hagan’s career in equal part to his studio practice. Between 1946 and 1983, Hagan taught painting, drawing, and printmaking at the Ontario College of Art; a talented lithographer in his own right, he influenced an entire generation of artists who would take up the challenge of figurative painting and revive its role as a valuable genre that could comment meaningfully on a contemporary spirit.
Immersed in a culture of painting that increasingly privileged abstraction, Hagan was—in the words of Damian Tarnopolsky, writing for the Globe and Mail—‘immune to artistic fashions,’ and firmly committed to his figurative style with little investment in self-promotion. But the artist’s canvases were nonetheless deeply symbolic, powerful, and energized portraits of humanity that combined Cubist, Mannerist, Expressionist, and even Classical principles of composition while ultimately creating a style all his own, rooted his personal, existential questioning.
Early figurative painting depicts the character and atmosphere of depression-era Toronto in rich oils; figures are almost caricatured, flattened or exaggerated bodies that serve as archetypal subjects of industry, labour, family, and politics. Hagan’s watercolours—by no means demoted in the artist’s oeuvre—are completed works that similarly comment on the human condition by way of the figure’s absence. These works on paper, most of which were painted outdoors during Hagan’s travels—are sensitive renderings of a natural world in which we are merely reverent visitors.
In 1967, Hagan was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal; in 1985, he was commissioned by Canada Post to create the 16 postage stamps, issued 1986-1989; in 1998, he was awarded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts Medal. His work is presented in prominent public collections including those of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Frederick Hagan passed away on September 6, 2003 at the age of 85.
A Poem for Today
Musings in Autumn: Giovanna Fletcher
“I love the arrival of a new season — each one bringing with it its own emotion: spring is full of hope; summer is freedom; autumn is a colourful release, and winter brings an enchanting peace. It’s hard to pick which one I enjoy the most — each time the new one arrives, I remember its beauty and forget the previous one whose qualities have started to dim.”
Gary Snyder is an American poet, essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist.
Some quotes from the work of Gary Snyder:
“As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth . . . the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.”
“In Western Civilization, our elders are books.”
“I have a friend who feels sometimes that the world is hostile to human life–he says it chills us and kills us. But how could we be were it not for this planet that provided our very shape? Two conditions–gravity and a livable temperature range between freezing and boiling–have given us fluids and flesh. The trees we climb and the ground we walk on have given us five fingers and toes. The ‘place’ (from the root plat, broad, spreading, flat) gave us far-seeing eyes, the streams and breezes gave us versatile tongues and whorly ears. The land gave us a stride, and the lake a dive. The amazement gave us our kind of mind. We should be thankful for that, and take nature’s stricter lessons with some grace.”
“Having a place means that you know what a place means…what it means in a storied sense of myth, character and presence but also in an ecological sense…Integrating native consciousness with mythic consciousness”
“The size of the place that one becomes
a member of is limited only by
the size of one’s heart.”
learn the flowers
A Second Poem for Today
By Jennifer Gray
The neighbor’s horses idle
under the roof
of their three-sided shelter,
looking out at the rain.
one or another
will fade into the shadows
in the corner, maybe
to eat, or drink.
Still, the others stand,
blowing out their warm
breaths. Rain rattles
on the metal roof.
Musings in Autumn: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A Third Poem for Today
Canadian Art – Part II: Laura Harris
Artist Statement: “Fueled by good coffee and the music of Joe Purdy, Ben Harper and Bob Dylan, my mornings are spent in my 8 x 12ft studio. When people ask me for a tour of my studio, I have to laugh… it’s small but I couldn’t ask for more. There’s paint on the walls, the ceiling, on the curtains and rug, and I love that no one has asked me to clean it up. Music loud, I can’t help but wiggle a bit and I think that movement finds its way into the paintings… I can see it in the strokes. I trust the mistakes and feel that a successful painting is one that conveys my emotion.
A lot of my work has a ‘big sky’ feel to it. While creating these, I am generally aware of a lost connection between people. We live in a world where cell phones and blackberries are often getting more affection than our family and friends. I fear that a loss of intimacy and connection is growing. The splatters of paint represent people or souls, rising from the ground up into the horizon… open and searching, connecting, together. The black represents the chaos of daily life, and the brightness represents hope, calm, and the inner peace I feel when I stop… like when I watch my husband and daughter beachcombing together and for that moment, there’s nothing else in the whole world.”